Making the Case for Anonymity in E-Participation - An Evaluation of Real Name Policy in Gütersloh’s Second Participatory Budget


  • Michelle Anna Ruesch Zebralog GmbH & Co. KG
  • Oliver Märker Zebralog GmbH & Co. KG



E-participation, participatory budgeting, real name policy, anonymity, pseudonymity, transparency, open participation


The paper relates the debate about real name policy on social networking platforms and online forums to online moderated consultation processes in the area of e-participation. It analyses the case of the second participatory budget of the German city of Gütersloh. Three major rationales for real name policy in e-participatory projects are identified: the possibility to restrict access, prevention of offensive communication, and the strengthening of a transparent democracy. The five major objections identified are: distraction from issue-related dialogue, violation of privacy rights, administrative problems causing high expenditure of time and costs, negative media and public attention, and usability problems that may result in a low rate of participation. The evidence found indicates that the negative consequences of real name policy outweigh the positive ones. Important directions of further research are pointed out. The paper is an extended version of a paper presented at the Conference for E-Democracy and Open Government in 2012.


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Author Biographies

Michelle Anna Ruesch, Zebralog GmbH & Co. KG

Michelle Anna Ruesch studied in Maastricht, Toulouse and London. She completed her M.Sc. in Politics and Communication at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her interest in online dialogue and and civic engagement for conflict resolution and social change brought her to Zebralog GmbH & Co. KG. As project manager and consultant, she designs, implements and evaluates online participation projects in Germany and beyond.

Oliver Märker, Zebralog GmbH & Co. KG

Dr. Oliver Märker is managing director at Zebralog GmbH & Co. KG located in Berlin and Bonn. He consults public agencies about the planning and realization of e-participatory procedures on local, regional, and federal level. Oliver Märker studied geography, sociology, and psychology at the University of Bonn. He finished his PhD with his doctoral thesis "Online-Mediation as an instrument for sustainable urban and regional planning" in 2004 at the University of Oldenburg.




How to Cite

Ruesch, M. A., & Märker, O. (2012). Making the Case for Anonymity in E-Participation - An Evaluation of Real Name Policy in Gütersloh’s Second Participatory Budget. JeDEM - EJournal of EDemocracy and Open Government, 4(2), 301–317.



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